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exfoliation

by niteowl


i scrub the konjac sponge into my pores,
pressing it against my forehead lines
as if it could save me from that impossible choice
between botox and self-acceptance.

i was born cursed by aphrodite,
my face a squarish-round
that gets too wide when i smile,
my plumpness entirely unpleasant,
my arms covered in keratosis scales
my very being repelling the camera
in every photo ever taken of me.

however, i had one reprieve
i had the odd pimple here and there,
but I did not have the constant eruptions
that scarred the faces of some peers.
not that i would gloat,
only sigh in relief that i was shown
some small bit of mercy.

but now there is a line across the forehead,
a punishment from aphrodite for being too expressive.
the undereye circles grow darker and thinner,
a symptom of my mercurial sleep patterns.

my face is baby-smooth now,
but red and raw.
(and still has lines)
perhaps i should not have paired it
with an exfoliating cleanser,
but it felt like neither alone was enough.

i soothe the skin
with serums and creams
that might all be snake oil and placebos,
but at least it feels like i'm doing something.


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Sat Sep 24, 2022 11:12 pm
lliyah wrote a review...



Hey nite! Always a fan of your poetic voice.

This poem definitely evoked a huge "OOF" reaction from me - being able to relate to "Why the heck do I still occasionally have skin problems in my mid 20s?! @_@ and AHHH do I really need to worry about wrinkles already @__@" - I think there's a lot of people who can relate to this, and it feels even more compelling to read because in addition to so many people struggling with skin problems/processing aging, it's also not something that's usually widely talked about - but just politely ignored, even though it can really cause a dent in esteem.

You're able to describe the narrator's skin routine quite poetically like this whole stanza is such a creative way to say this:

but now there is a line across the forehead,
a punishment from aphrodite for being too expressive.
the undereye circles grow darker and thinner,
a symptom of my mercurial sleep patterns.

!!

The poem leans towards spilling a meaning beyond skin-care in a few places like " it could save me from that impossible choice
between botox and self-acceptance."

" at least it feels like i'm doing something."

^ the feeling of a sort of helplessness to be at mercy to the whims of the body's punishments feels like it's expressed. And even if the reader can't relate to the wrinkles, or blemishes, or the other things brought up - that is certainly a sort of universal truth everyone can connect to in there as well that we only have so much control over our body's reaction to how we treat it.

I think it'd be interesting to lean into the "behind the scenes" emotional impact of the skin routine a bit more / even metaphorically -> like maybe making the skin care a more obvious metaphor? but I do like what you've got here already and like I said, I think readers are going to connect with this at every level too.

I liked the loose structure you used for this with lines of various lengths and didn't really see any formatting aspects that were distracting to my reading. It'd be maybe positive to do a second or third parenthetical aside, but that was the only thing I was questioning a bit.

Thanks for posting!

alliyah

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niteowl says...


Thanks for the excellent review! I def see what you mean by this feels very literal and could be more metaphorical/emotional. I guess I never know where the line is between "oh this is a good metaphor" and "dude you're laying it on a little thick", so I tend towards more literal. I def struggled with where and how to end this thing.

Also...did you just really say you want more parentheses? Been spending a lot of time trying to break that habit...not sure if I even realized one snuck in there.



lliyah says...


You're welcome!

did you just really say you want more parentheses? Been spending a lot of time trying to break that habit...not sure if I even realized one snuck in there.


lol! I think it can definitely be an over-used technique - > I tend to say that if you're doing a strange formatting thing (like a single blue word, or one underline, italics, or one parenthetical note) it's better to do it twice unless it's literally the most important line in the poem, because it gives readers a chance to pick up a pattern takes away a little of the novelty factor to make it a technique rather than mistaken as gimmick. That being said I totally sometimes do just a one-off parenthetical note too because I just like parenthesis. :] tl;dr I'd get rid of them or do them twice! :)



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Sun Sep 18, 2022 8:08 pm
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Seirre says...



Hi niteowl! I'm stopping by with a comment for you as part of the Comment Weekend Bonanza!

There's something very grounded and gritty about physical/bodily imagery, and I feel like it's a slightly underused realm of poetic imagery (at least on YWS) - so I absolutely love how prominently it centers in this poem. The high level of detail in descriptions also conveys the feeling of being in front of the mirror and analyzing every. single. pore. super well.

The matter-of-fact, neutral sounding way in which the narrator describes their self-perceived ugliness is almost more heartbreaking than poems that are full of angsty self-loathing? Like, here, the narrator is so confident on their ugliness that they've absorbed it as a definite fact that isn't worth fighting or rethinking. This line specifically

my very being repelling the camera
in every photo ever taken of me.

is just </3

And I think that's an interesting reflection of the fact that sometimes, flooding your poem with very obvious, surface layer, intense emotions isn't the only way or the best way to evoke big emotions in the reader!




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Sat Sep 17, 2022 2:33 pm
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vampricone6783 wrote a review...



The individual tries desperately to rid their face of any blemishes, to show that they can be beautiful in this cruel world. Beauty isn’t just a desire, it’s a need. The world treats you better when you’re beautiful. You treat yourself better. The creams smooth the skin, but turns it red and raw, like the blood kept inside wants to gush out on the tiled bathroom floor. Beauty, beauty, beauty. We’d kill to have it. I wish you a lovely day/night.




niteowl says...


Thank you! I%u2019m glad you connected with the piece!




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